“Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? I don’t think we have any sodas, but Joan can zip over to the nearest town and be back in a few minutes.” Globe was more pleasant than Sherman had imagined he would be. Years of working with Crispin and his mercenaries had conditioned Sherman to expect that being powerful meant also being aloof and prideful. Yet Globe, despite his fearsome reputation and mysterious ability, seemed downright cheerful as Crispin took a seat on the opposite couch. Sherman chose to stand, however. If Globe was the only one sitting, the couches were clearly intended for leadership.
“I’m sorry, Joan? Is that the name of your mysterious aid?” Crispin nodded to Scarf, who began to unwind her signature facial covering as soon as he pointed it out. She looked rather mundane, purposefully so, like she styled herself specifically to blend in as much as possible.
Globe didn’t seem irked by the comment; he just went ahead and poured himself a mug of coffee, adding a few sugars as well. “Yes, that’s Joan. I’ll have to ask you to forgive the masking and theatrics, but men in our position can hardly be blamed for exercising prudence. Keeping my allies’ names unknown protects them, as well as myself. But now that you’re here, I don’t think we need such measures anymore. It would be disrespectful of the good will you’ve shown with your attendance.”
“I’m glad you recognize the importance of this meeting, and how much I’ve risked by attending it. But you are a man of means, Globe. A man who can’t seem to be caught, even as he traipses about, cracking open jail cells and then vanishing without a trace. I could use those means, since my own situation has become a touch… confining. Sherman, a tea.”
Instantly, Sherman complied, pouring his employer a cup of tea and lemon just the way he liked it. Globe and Joan both watched the process quietly, neither pointing out that the tea and cups were actually closer to Crispin. Perhaps they read it as a power play, to show his control over his people, but the truth was it didn’t bother Sherman. He liked being depended on, especially by a man as important as Crispin.
“So you want to move about freely again, no doubt to restart your organization, or maybe to build a new one using the lessons you’ve learned. But what then, Crispin? How does one top the first successful attack on an HCP campus?” Globe asked.
“Oh, I have some ideas. With a Super who has brainwashing abilities to augment and enough force, it might be possible to co-opt an entire senior class. Imagine that: ten fully-trained, Hero-grade Supers suddenly turning against their own school. After pulling one off, I’ve also got some ideas for a more successful campus attack. And then there are the rumors, unsubstantiated so far, regarding Powereds and… well that’s just say that one has the potential to change everything if managed properly. You’ll forgive me if I’m light on the details though. This is a new friendship.”
“Those are some interesting ideas; I especially find the brainwashing one fascinating.” Globe’s eyes darted to Sherman for a brief moment before he continued. “But there is one thing I have to correct you on: this is not a friendship, Crispin. Not at all.”
Sherman looked to Crispin, waiting for some kind of signal that it was time to go, however none came. Instead, his employer nodded in agreement. “You’re quite right Globe, this is business and nothing more. I’m glad you’re not one of those sentimental types who has to dress up what we do with familiarity.”
From the rear of the room, Joan coughed softly. It was a small gesture, yet Sherman took note of it all the same. Something had shifted, the room felt off, even if he didn’t have anything he could pin it on just yet.
“I couldn’t agree with you more. What’s happening here is business, pure and simple. A balancing of accounts, if you will.” Globe set his empty coffee mug down, his smile dimming slightly.
This time, Crispin gave the signal. Whatever vibe had shifted, he felt it too, and it was time to get out of here. Sherman focused his will and pushed them through space… except that it didn’t work. They were still standing there, in the barn, across from Globe and Joan. Sherman tried again, and again, to no avail. Were they blocking him? But how, with Crispin’s enhancement there shouldn’t be another teleporter in the world who could anchor him, and neither Globe or Joan were neutralizers. Was there a third Super, somewhere unseen?
“Sir, we seem to be stuck.”
“Yes, I’m afraid I can’t have you leaving before our meeting is done. There’s just so much to get through, and I’m afraid I really do need you present the whole while.” Globe rose from the couch, stepping around the coffee table. Sherman tried to get between he and Crispin, but found his body unwilling to move. He was rooted in place, which meant Crispin almost certainly was too. “I’m not sure if you’re a religious man, I was never much of one myself but my mother insisted we attend church enough that I have a basic understanding of how it works. On the off-chance you are, then I would encourage you to think of this as a confession, a moment to cleanse your soul in the eyes of God.”
Circling the couch, Globe now stood directly behind Crispin. His right hand extended, fingers touching the top of Crispin’s skull. “People have called my ability a ‘God Field’ you know, but that’s an overstatement. I’m not a god, I’m still limited by my own perceptions and understanding. If I don’t know how to do a thing, then I can’t cause it. And free will is an element I’ve never been able to overcome, not that I’ve tried much. So I can’t force you to say anything, Crispin. But I can tell when you lie, and I can punish you for it. Let’s start with something simple. That brain-washing idea, that wasn’t theoretical, was it?”
“Are you going to torture me now? I expected more than this from a former Hero, first you deceive us into coming and then you threaten me with pain unless I answer your questions.”
“Ah yes, because we would obviously be the first people in history to use falsehoods as part of a sting operation. Besides, I don’t think I’ve told you a single lie in the brief time we talked. Now Joan, on the other hand, is an expert on tactical deception. Joan, did you lie to get these men here?”
“I did,” Joan replied, no hesitation in her voice.
“Well then, maybe Crispin is right. You’ll have to be punished for that. No dessert at dinner tonight, and I’m making key lime pie so it’s a good one.” Globe winked at her, and Sherman felt his heart sink a little deeper. “As for your accusation of torture, I’d never stoop so low as to threaten another person’s well-being like that. In fact, I’m not going to hurt you in any way if you resist. You, on the other hand, might not be so gentle with yourself.”
“What does that even mean?” Crispin demanded.
“It means I’m not going to do anything more than replay some of your memories. The worst ones, the bits buried deep inside. I’m going to show you your demons, Crispin. Because you’re not wrong about us being similar in more ways than I’d like. And there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty regarding men like us.”
Globe leaned down, close to Crispin’s ear, and all-but hissed out the next words. “We have a lot of demons.”